Using SharePoint to Create Document and Records Management Solutions that Delight Business Users

Let’s see how a diverse range of organizations have used SharePoint (Online and on-premises) to create document management and records management solutions that have achieved good levels of satisfaction and adoption by their business users.  The key to their success is that they all use add-on software from MacroView.

Microsoft Office 365 SharePoint integration
Outlook SharePoint Integration
SharePoint icon

The Organizations

  • Uniting Church Synod – Australia (Not-For-Profit Charity)
  • Kuok Legal Department- Singapore (Shipping)
  • Excelerate Energy – USA (Energy Utility)
  • AEGIS – USA (Insurance)
  • Employers Council – USA (Industry Association)
  • Simmonds Stuart – New Zealand (Law firm)
  • Webb Henderson – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore (Law firm)

Key Success Factors

Things that delight Business Users at these organizations include:

  • Making the Document and Record store easy to visualize and navigate
  • Minimizing Metadata entry by users as they save documents and emails
  • Allowing Users to work in familiar Microsoft Office applications
  • Custom-Tailoring of Search
  • Integrating with Line of Business applications (without requiring extra effort by users)
  • Secure access from anywhere, on any device
  • Collaborative editing (Co-Authoring) of documents

Making the Document / Record store easy to Visualize and Navigate

The NSW and Victorian Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia were directed by a judicial commission to improve their records management, particularly around the retention and discovery of emails. They created a successful new Records Management solution based on Office 365 / SP Online.  They report that a key success factor for their new solution is that their end-users feel that they can easily understand the structure of the DM / RM store.
Their new solution makes visualizing their SharePoint Online tenant as familiar as visualizing the folder structure in a Windows file share. The tree structure of SharePoint Online is displayed in a new pane which appears on the right of the Outlook Mail window. That tree display is generated by add-on software from MacroView called MacroView DMF. MacroView DMF automatically discovers all the areas for which the current user has access and displays those areas in a complete, accurate tree view. The users can expand and contract to drill in and out. They can click on a node to see the documents and emails that have already been saved, and drag and drop to save new emails and documents – all just like in Windows.
MacroView adds a new pane on the right of the main Outlook window which provides an intuitive tree-view of the structure of a SharePoint document and email store.

MacroView DMF harnesses the power of SharePoint search to make navigating around the SharePoint records store even easier than it is with a Windows file share. The next screen shot shows how a MacroView DMF user can use SharePoint Online search to find all areas in the DM / RM store whose names contain proposal and then be automatically navigated to one of those areas. Thanks to SharePoint and MacroView it’s even easier than navigating a large Windows file share.

Search Site Tree command of MacroView DMF uses SharePoint Online Search to find all areas of the SharePoint document store whose names contain proposal, and automatically navigates to the selected area.

See the Case Study of this implementation.

Minimizing Metadata Entry as Emails and Attachments are saved

If you ask DM / RM users what they dislike about their existing system chances are that they will tell you that their pet hate is the way that system prompts for metadata every time they save a document. And often times it’s the same set of metadata regardless of what they are saving. In a professional services firm context that means being prompted for Client and Project even when the document being saved is an internal one – e.g. for Marketing or Finance or HR – so the users have to enter ‘dummy’ Client and Project codes, such as 99999 or 000000.  We have heard this ongoing prompting for metadata referred to a Profiling Fatigue, which we think is a good name for what is a major source of user frustration.

With SharePoint you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to metadata. Each area of a SharePoint-based DM / RM store can have a different metadata design.  And the fundamental structure of SharePoint as a tree of storage containers means that you can provision each node so that metadata capture is largely automatic.

The screen shot above shows how the right-hand MacroView pane provides a complete and accurate view of the structure of a SharePoint Online document store. Users find working with the MacroView tree-view as familiar as working with the folder structure of a Windows file share.

Users in the legal department of Kuok Shipping in Singapore use a document set for each legal Matter, with each Matter document set containing folders for frequently-used types of document.

To save an Outlook email for a Matter a Kuok legal user simply drags and drops to a folder within the document set for that Matter. The user does not have to enter metadata but there is extensive automatic metadata capture, as this next screen shot shows. The Matter document set shares the metadata that relates to the Matter with the newly-saved email, and the MacroView add-on also automatically records the attributes of the email (To, From, Received Time, etc.).

Automatically recorded metadata for an Outlook email saved in SharePoint Online by MacroView - note email attributes such as Attach(ment) Count, Conversation Topic, From and Importance - and Matter-level metadata such as Matter Managed By, Matter Name, Matter Status, etc.

Having the metadata recorded automatically not only reduces effort and frustration for the user – as we will see shortly it is also very useful when you search across the saved documents and emails.

Profiling fatigue is also minimized when the Kuok Legal user drags and drops to save an attachment – again the MacroView software automatically records Matter metadata for a newly saved attachment, and it also automatically records file system attributes such as Created Date, Last Modified Date, Author etc. These attributes are often the way users identify the document that they want to work with when they are using a Windows file share or other Windows folder – it’s good to have them to search by even after the documents have been migrated to SharePoint.

Allowing Users to Work in Familiar Microsoft Office Applications

SharePoint / SharePoint Online is a web-based document store, but that does NOT mean that to access it your user interface has to run in a web browser. On the contrary, our experience with real world customer organizations is that a key to successful user adoption is that users are able to work with the document store from the familiar environment of Microsoft Office. We’ve seen Uniting Church and Kuok Shipping working in Outlook as they view and navigate the store and as they save emails and attachments.
Excelerate Energy from Houston report that the ability to interact with their new SharePoint-based DM / RM store from Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as Outlook was a key success factor in terms of adoption by their users.
Excelerate have created a document management solution using on-premises SharePoint Server plus MacroView DMF.
MacroView DMF adds Open from SharePoint and Save As to SharePoint buttons to the Home tab of Microsoft Word - making it much more convenient for users to interact with a SharePoint document store from Microsoft Office.

This screen shot shows how MacroView DMF extends the Microsoft Word environment at Excelerate Energy, so that the Home tab very conveniently contains Open from SharePoint and Save As to SharePoint buttons. Clicking Open from SharePoint displays a dialog that allows their users to interact with the SharePoint DM store in four modes – Browse, Recents, Favorites and the Search mode shown in the screen shot.

The Search mode enables searching for documents based on metadata and / or content. The results are displayed in an intuitive table layout. The Excelerate users can do these searches while they work in Word (or Excel or PowerPoint or Outlook) – they do not have to leave the Office app where they are working and jump out to the web browser In order to search for documents or emails stored in SharePoint.

Custom-Tailoring of Search

Being able to search for documents in SharePoint without needing to leave the Office app where you are working is good, but it’s even better if the search can be customized to reflect the way your department or business unit uses metadata.

This next screen shot is taken from AEGIS Insurance, headquartered in Rutherford NJ. AEGIS have taken advantage of the way their MacroView add-on lets them define custom search panels – in this case an UW Documents search panel, which allows their Underwriting team to search for documents and emails using metadata that makes sense to Underwriting users – like  Policy Number, Underwriting Doc Type and Submission Number.

Potentially each Business Unit can have its own custom search panel. This improves user adoption because the users in each Business Unit see that the SharePoint-based DM / RM solution has been custom tailored to their needs.

Custom search panel called UW Documents allows Underwriting Department users at AEGIS Insurance to search for documents in SharePoint using metadata that is relevant to Underwriting.

See the AEGIS Case Study.

Integrating with Line of Business (LOB) apps without increasing user effort

DM and RM systems do not exist in isolation – in real world they need to co-exist with various line of business systems – e.g. CRM systems, Practice Management systems, Policy and Claims systems, Time Recording systems etc.  Ideally the DM / RM system needs to be integrated with the LOB systems so that there is one source of the truth – i.e. a single point where customer / project details are maintained.

We have already seen how AEGIS Insurance provided their Underwriting team users with a custom search panel, powered by the SharePoint search engine and usable direct from Office.  AEGIS has a LOB system for tracking Claims. They recognized that sometimes their users started their interaction by going to the record for a claim in that Claims system.  By clicking a hyperlink in that record the AEGIS Claims team user is jumped out into a familiar MacroView screen, automatically navigated to the area in SharePoint that contains the documents and emails that have already been saved for that Claim. They can then drag and drop from Outlook or any Windows folder to save additional documents and emails. The screen that they jump to is generated by MacroView DMF Explorer, which provides a Windows File Manager–like experience for working with documents and emails in SharePoint.

Clicking a hyperlink in a Line of Business record jumps the user to MacroView DMF Explorer, already navigated to the area where documents and emails for the Claim are stored.

See the AEGIS Case Study.

Employers Council from Denver, Colorado (formerly known as Mountain States Employers Council – MSEC) integrated their DM and CRM systems by having their profiling (metadata capture) dialog customized so that the user could create a new project record in CRM as part of saving the first document for that new project. The screen shot below shows the profiling dialog in use at MSEC.  The Member Matter control allows the use to pick a project record from the CRM system. But when it’s a new project there may well be no record found. So instead the user can click this custom ‘+’ button, which brings up a dialog that allows a new project record to be created in the CRM, and be selected for the document that is being saved.

It is instructive to calculate the keystrokes or user input actions that this custom ‘+’ button saves. It removes the need to suspend the save of the document, jump out to the CRM system to record the new project and then resume the save activity – overall a saving of 60%. No wonder that MSEC users report this as a key reason for liking their SharePoint-based solution.

Custom ‘+’ button in profiling dialog allows MSEC business users to create a record in the CRM system for a new Project as they save the first document for that new Project, thereby reducing keystrokes by 60%.

See the MSEC Case Study.

Secure access from anywhere, on any device

Microsoft have invested heavily in making their SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business and Azure services secure. They have more security certifications than any other cloud provider. So you can store documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business with confidence. You can then access those documents securely when you are out of the office. All you need is access to an internet connection. Indeed if you are using OneDrive for Business you don’t even need the internet connection, because you can use the synchronized copy of the documents on your C: drive.

As New Zealand law firm Simmonds Stuart has found, this secure access from anywhere facilitates collaboration with customers and service partners. Once you have saved a document into SharePoint Online you can Share it with your customer / service partner, and they will be able to access it securely even though they are not one of the users in your Office 365 account. As well as access from anywhere it’s also access from any device – e.g. from a Mac running a Safari web browser, or from the SharePoint or OneDrive apps running on an iOS or Android or Windows mobile device or from Microsoft Office apps running under iOS on an iPad.

Simmonds Stuart uses a legal DM solution based on Office 365 / SharePoint Online and MacroView Case and Matter.

Collaborative Editing of Documents

Our next screen shot is from another law firm called Webb Henderson, who have offices in Sydney, Auckland and Singapore.  Webb Henderson uses on-premises SharePoint Server plus MacroView DMF, together with a custom document automation solution from MacroView. A lot of their projects involve multiple Webb Henderson staff members working on a document from Webb Henderson offices, from their homes, from hotels and from customer offices – e.g. in Dubai.  Because drafting deadlines are tight, these widely dispersed users need to be able to collaborate in real time on a document.

This is where a SharePoint-based solution can really shine. Thanks to the integration of SharePoint with Microsoft Office, multiple users can co-author a Word document that is stored in SharePoint.

Co-authoring means edit collaboratively so that multiple users have the document open at the same time, with each seeing the changes made by the other users every time they hit Save.

Webb Henderson complete the solution by using the MacroView add-on in Word, which as well as facilitating searching for and opening the document, also significantly improves the options for version control (compared to the native integration of SharePoint and Office).

SharePoint Document Generation

More Information

For more information about combining Office 365 and SharePoint Online with MacroView add-ons to create document management, email management and records management solutions that delight business users, see or contact MacroView Solutions.